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Over 1,200 N.B. teachers eligible to retire within next five years, association calling for urgent action

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Peter Lagacy says of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association’s (NBTA) 6,500 members about 1,200 are eligible to retire within the next five years.

It’s a large number at a time when New Brunswick is already facing a shortage of teachers.

The president of the NBTA is calling on the province to come up with an urgent recruitment and retention plan so they’re not faced with a “real crisis in three to five years.”

“Teachers are stretched really, really thin right now. And not having enough resources at times can really be draining,” he said.

Lagacy made the comments during the association’s annual general meeting in Fredericton.

The system is relying on supply teachers. Lagacy said the districts have issued 1,011 local permits to certified supply teachers, and says just 164 of them are under the age of 50.

“I do have concerns that it gets lost maybe, over the summer months and teachers are in the same place come fall,” he said.

The department of education and early childhood released a multi-faceted long-term plan to combat issues facing the system in April, which included recruitment and retention goals, but they were planned for the next several years.

Minister Bill Hogan acknowledged recruitment and retention is a challenge, and says he’s been strategizing ways to fill those gaps.

“Some of our universities have not filled all their education seats and we've asked them to do that,” he said. “We're going to empower districts, because districts do hiring, to give contracts right away and we will ensure that the money is there for the contract so that they don't have to worry about getting stuck holding a ‘B’ contract without the money.”

Hogan says New Brunswick has been “behind the game,” and watched other provinces hire New Brunswick-trained teachers who’re without contracts.

He also said he met with St. Thomas University recently about the possibility of a summer school component to their bachelor of education programming. Hogan recognized that Universite de Moncton and Crandall University each have programs allowing degree holders to get their BEd through part-time courses.

Green Party leader David Coon says we need to make classrooms better resourced so those teachers who are eligible to retire want to stay in the job for longer.

“There's no reason they have to retire when they become eligible,” he said. “So, that requires a retention strategy, and that requires some significant changes for teachers in our schools.”

Violence on the rise, Lagacy believes

There’s also been some attention on the levels of violence among students within New Brunswick schools. Lagacy said, anecdotally, he believes it is on the rise.

“But I think we see that in all of our communities as well, right? Whatever happens in the community tends to happen in school community as well,” he said. “So, I think what we can look at is, you know, there certainly needs to be more resources. We need more guidance counselors, more support for students’ mental health in our buildings.”

He said many of these issues tend to fall on teachers to try and mitigate.

Psychologist Dr. Simon Sherry told CTV News this week that, since the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been increases in violence among youth, according to officials and police reports.

And while they’re not the only culprit, the prevalence of cellphones and social media haven’t helped the issue.

“As much as these can be portals for education or social connection, they can also be portals for bullying and major mental health problems,” he said.

Coon said he’s been hearing the same from teachers who turn to him about the issues they’re seeing in their schools.

“That's something I am not equipped to address because that’s an issue the education system has dealt with for a long time. And it's getting worse. We need to find out why,” he said. “Maybe the traditional approaches for addressing violence in schools need to be adapted or evolved.”

Hogan told reporters that, during his time as a principal, he dealt with issues of bullying “more times than I care to count.”

But he says he’s received some data that has shown behavioural intervention mentors has reduced the amount of “adverse behaviours in classrooms.”

“That’s something we still need to work on,” he said.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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